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Syllabic sonorant consonants

In specific phonological contexts, the sequence schwa + sonorant consonant can be realized as a syllabic sonorant consonant. This is a wide-spread phenomenon in Frisian. Some examples of the occurrence of syllabic sonorant consonants are given in (1):

Example 1

Examples of words with syllabic sonorant consonants
hûnen /hun+ən/ [hunn̩] dogs
linnen /lɪnən/ [lɪnn̩] linen
ringen /rɪŋ+ən/ [rɪŋŋ] rings
koppen /kop+ən/ [kopm̩] cups
wetter /vɛtər/ [vɛtr̩] water
keppel /kɛpəl/ [kɛpl̩] group, bunch, crowd

The phonetic difference between syllabic and non-syllabic sonorant consonants is that the former have a longer duration than the latter and that they are pronounced with a new 'impulse', i.e. in a vowel-like way.

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According to Keyser (1994:217-219), for a consonant to be articulated and/or perceived, one (or more) of the three articulators (lips, tongue blade, tongue body) must be either released [into a following vowel or consonant] or imploded [out of a preceding vowel or consonant]. Syllabic consonants are produced with a narrow constriction in the vocal tract, in which respect they are consonant-like, but they do not have a release or an implosion, in which respect they are vowel-like. In case of a syllabic /l/, for instance, the tongue is in the right position for the articulation of /l/, but no audible implosion occurs. The vocalic role of syllabic consonants also manifests itself by a relatively static spectrum shape.

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Extra references

Bell (1978), Cohen (1959), Cohen (1961), Dyk (1987), Meer (1986), Riemersma (1979), Sipma (1913), Tiersma (1979) and Visser (1997).

  • Bell, Alan1978Syllabic ConsonantsGreenberg, Joseph H. (ed.)Universals of Human Language2: PhonologyStanfordStanford University Press
  • Cohen, Antonie1961Fonologie van het Nederlands en het Fries. Inleiding tot de moderne klankleerMartinus Nijhoff
  • Cohen, Antonie, Ebeling, C.L., Eringa, P., Fokkema, K. & Holk, A.G.F. van1959Fonologie van het Nederlands en het Fries: Inleiding tot de moderne klankleerMartinus Nijhoff
  • Dyk, Siebren1987Oer syllabisearringCo-Frisica376-92
  • Keyser, S.J. & Stevens, K.N1994Feature geometry and the vocal tractPhonology11207-236
  • Meer, Geart van der & Graaf, Tjeerd de1986Sandhi phenomena in FrisianAndersen & Henning (eds.)Sandhi phenomena in the languages of EuropeBerlin/ New York/ AmsterdamMouton de Gruijter301-328
  • Riemersma, Tr1979Sylabysjerring, nazzeljerring, assymyljerringLjouwertKoperative Utjowerij
  • Sipma, Pieter1913Phonology and Grammar of Modern West FrisianLondon, New YorkOxford University Press
  • Tiersma, Pieter M1979Aspects of the phonology of Frisian based on the language of GrouMeidielingen fan de stúdzjerjochting Frysk oan de Frije Universiteit yn Amsterdam4
  • Visser, Willem1997The Syllable in FrisianVrije Universiteit AmsterdamThesis